Mar 25

Fresh Herb Omelette and Uncle Jimmy’s Wisdom

I was watching a TV show the other day (something I do not do often). In the show there was a breakup of a couple. In the long run I guess the premiss of the show was about being brave and moving on. As the show closed I found that I was tearing (again something I do not do often). The episode was just so touching to me. I questioned myself: Is there anything more raw than the ending of a relationship where you admit you’re sorry that it is over?

The whole thing made me think of my late Uncle Jimmy (I have written about him before here) and I had a flashback to the summer of 1993 when I graduated high school. My parents had some family over for a little B.B.Q. on a warm Sunday afternoon. We were all in the back yard, with my Uncle Frank & Aunt Fran and my Uncle Jimmy & Aunt Marge. My Uncle Jimmy looked at me and asked where Rob was. Rob was a boy I had dated through the school year. I explained to him that I did not think it was going to last between us. We were both going away to different colleges, and I was not sure we cared for each other enough to make it work.

My Uncle Jimmy in the late 1990's.

My Uncle Jimmy in the late 1990’s.

He looked at me with a concerned look and told all about his love for my aunt over the years. He explained to me that he always cared for my Aunt Marge. He told me about how they were young and she was not interested in a relationship. He explained that time passed and he always came by to see how my Aunt was, some time later as luck should have it she gave him a chance and they have been together ever since. Never feel sad about love not working out, he told me. Time will let love work itself out. In the meantime you have to live and be happy. (At the time he was telling me this he and my aunt must have been together about over 50 years.)

Eggs, and assorted Fresh Herbs for my Omelette.

Eggs, and assorted Fresh Herbs for my Omelette.

Like always, my Uncle Jimmy gave me so much wisdom. I always listened to him because in some ways it was so truthful and more honest than anything anyone else would have ever told me. If I did’t listen to him I might not be with my husband today. We met the summer my uncle and I had this conversation. My Uncle Jimmy was always full of good advice as far as I am concerned. I love thinking about things he said or expressed to me over the years.

Funny the things I remember, and can recall him telling me. Vividly I can remember him telling me about making omelettes. “I had a six egg omelette today. Keeps me strong!” I may not take him up on eating a six egg omelette, but when I make any omelette he is always on my mind. Personally I like to make my omelettes with a mixture of herbs to flavor it. I also like to be sure I get some golden brown hue on the eggs, I like the flavor it imparts on them. Most always I serve this with a fresh green salad and some oven roasted potatoes. If my Uncle Jimmy was still here I would gladly make one to share with him. I definitely think he would enjoy it. I am so thankful for the memories I have and his wisdom. I carry them in my heart.

Fresh Herb Omelette, ready to eat.

Fresh Herb Omelette, ready to eat.

Fresh Herb Omelette (serves 2)

*Note: you can use any mix of fresh herbs you feel fit. I generally l use parsley and rosemary in addition to what I used along with this one, but this is what I had on hand today. Feel free to adapt the herbs as you feel fit, but always be sure they are fresh.

4 large eggs

1/4 cup finely chopped herbs; dill, thyme, and oregano

3 tbsp heavy cream

2 tbsp of olive oil

sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

First, place a 9 inch nonstick pan over medium to high heat and heat through.

Next, crack your eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well until all the yolks and whites are broken and combined. Add in the cream and whisk again.

Then, add your olive oil to the pan, while swirling it around to coat it well. Add your herb mix to the eggs and stir it well. Season the eggs with sea salt and fresh black pepper before adding the mixture to your hot pan.

Finally, gently tilt your pan back and forth to be sure your mixture is evenly distributed. I like to use a rubber spatula to gently nudge the edges of your egg all the way around to be sure it is not sticking to the pan. Easily flip your omelette over once it all seams set so that will gently brown on the opposite side. After a minute, and you are sure your egg is cooked through; you can slide it out of the pan and serve.

Mar 15

Vegetarian Egg Rolls

I have learned thus far in life that things are not always just one way. There are so many variations to just about everything in life. If you are like me, there is an enjoyment in learning every aspect and why. I use this approach almost always in food. I love to find out all the details, reasons, and varied possibilities that apply to any component or ingredient. This philosophy keeps your mind open and what it will sometimes do to your taste buds is priceless.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls with lettuce, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls with lettuce, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce.

Growing up in New Jersey it was common to order Chinese take out. There was, and possible still is, a Chinese take-out just about every couple of miles. The kind of shop that has a kitchen, a counter, possibly a couple of tables, but that is about it. You phone in or walk in, place your order, and off you go with hot freshly prepared Chinese food packed neatly in foil or little cardboard containers. My sister and I often ate it for lunch with our mom or on a busy night when my dad was traveling. It was a fun little thing that “us girls” did. Each time our meals always came with pork fried rice and an egg roll. We loved to eat that pork fried rice with whatever main dish we combined it with – Cashew Chicken, General Tso, Sweet & Sour Pork, Egg Foo Young…the list can go on, don’t tempt me.

Veggies all shredded and ready for cooking.

Veggies all shredded and ready for cooking.

But the special part of the meal was the egg roll. I can always remember my sister and I loving to munch away and nibble on this wonderfully crispy fried and chewy deliciousness. These egg rolls I am speaking of were, and still are, large in size; possibly just shy from the size of a can of soda. They were always filled with shredded cabbage, other veggies, some mushroom, and ground pork.  We would always get the little plastic packets of duck sauce (which I have learned is just thin apricot preserve) to dip our egg roll into as we chewed away and grinned. My father knew we enjoyed egg rolls so much and he mentioned it to a co-worker he had who was from China. She made some of her own egg rolls for us as a treat. We were shocked to see that the egg rolls she made were tiny, enough for for just a few bites, and had a much different flavor. (It  was years latter that I came to know that flavor at Chinese Five Spice.) My mom and dad then explained to us that things can always be different depending of where they come from; different areas are known for different spices, vegetables, and so on.

Ginger, green onion, and garlic....all ready.

Ginger, green onion, and garlic….all ready.

As I grew up, traveled, and moved away, I always found it comforting to get some Chinese food and dine. I always compared it to the food my sister, mother and I dined on. I sometimes would ask the staff at the restaurant where they were from and take notice to the difference in the flavors from other places. It was my friend and lawyer Michael who taught me that his family (from Vietnam and Thailand but originated from China) always ate smaller egg rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves. I followed his lead and came to quite a liking of this. Your hand does not touch the fried exterior and the lettuce created a nice refreshing contrast in flavor. I had a co-worker named Ping here in Seattle who was from China. She often made us Chinese food for our family meals and taught me that just using garlic and keeping the veggies somewhat crunchy and fresh leads to more flavor then any sauce could ever do justice too. She also taught me how to “wrap” an egg roll. Mind you Ping was not even 5 foot tall, and her tiny hands and fingers whizzed away wrapping up those little egg rolls that always looked perfect. It was always amazing to watch her, and she was so fast at doing it.

Assembly line. Wrappers and water, filled, and rolled / wrapped. Staying organized is key.

Assembly line. Wrappers and water, filled, and rolled / wrapped. Staying organized is key.

Over the years I have tried to get a handle on making them myself. I have experimented trying best to match the flavors I enjoyed in my childhood and combined it with what I have learned from my travels and friends. The end result is quite tasty, and Brian and I enjoy them every now and again. The egg rolls we enjoy now are vegetarian, are less than half the size to what I and Brian grew up with, mildly spiced, and we eat them with lettuce along with soy sauce and sweet chili sauce to accompany them. Although I am still not as quick or fast like Ping when I make them, they are fun and delicious. Give it a try and I think you will be amazed by how simple they are and how you just made egg rolls yourself. Trying all those different egg rolls over the years has definitely paid off.

Enjoying the little egg rolls with lettuce and sweet chili dipping sauce.

Enjoying the little egg rolls with lettuce and sweet chili dipping sauce.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls (Makes about 30)

Note: You can use egg roll wrappers for this, but they are usually quite large. I like to use the Wong Ton wrappers due to their smaller size. Doubling up on the wrappers helps prevent tearing and the filling oozing when cooking. You can purchase either wrappers at an asian market or at a larger supper market. There is a difference in texture between rice wrappers or spring roll wrappers, you do not want them for this recipe. 

4 cups of shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrot

1 cup shredded celery

1 1/2 cup of small chopped shiitake mushrooms

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1/4 cup soy sauce, plus more

2-3 cups peanut oil

1 – 2 packages of Wong Tong Wrappers *(see note)

1 head green leaf lettuce- washed,and cut into even hand held pieces

2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Sweet Chili sauce for dipping

First, place a large sauté pan (about 10 – 12 inches) over medium heat a heat through. Add the peanut oil and once it is heated though add your cabbage, celery, carrot and mushrooms. keep stirring it until it wilts and most of the moisture that releases from the veggie is cooked out. (You might need to add a bit more of oil if you feel the pan is getting too dry and the veggies are sticking.)

Next; add the ginger, green onion, and garlic over your veggies and stir well. Let is all sizzle together and sprinkle it all with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Add in the 1/4 cup of soy sauce and stir well and heat through. At this point taste it and see if you feel the seasoning is where you like it and adjust as needed. Place the mixture aside to cool before making your egg rolls.

Then, get all your components together to make your egg rolls. I like to do this all on a cutting board, but a counter or a table works just as well. Place a frying pan filled with about 2 cups of peanut oil over medium heat. Have your wrappers lined up with your veggie filling nearby, along with a small bowl of water. Line up two wrappers at a time, staggering them, scoop a small amount of veggies along the center of the wrappers. Wipe the edges of the wrapper with you finger dipped in the water to moisten the edges. Fold the bottom corner up and over the filling, fold the edges over to cover the bottom, and roll the rest of the egg roll up to seal the top half over it. The moistened edges will help see it together.

Meanwhile, after you seal a few egg rolls your oil should be heated through. Gently lay the egg rolls into the oil, a few at a time, and let them fry until nicely golden rotating to be sure it is evenly cooked on all sides. Once the egg rolls are evenly cooked remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Repeat the process, be sure not to wrap all your egg rolls too early or they might dry out or stick together. I prefer to get into a rhythm and do a few at a time.

Finally, once your egg rolls are done you can platter them up with the lettuce along side. Sprinkle the egg rolls with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve with both soy sauce and sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Mar 01

Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo

Being that a huge majority of our family is back east, it is hard not to see the weather they are experiencing and wonder: How did we get so lucky? My Aunt and Uncle are in Massachusetts and when I spoke with them this week they said they have four foot snow drifts. (You read that right, four feet!) I could not help but chuckle as my aunt said to me, “I never remember paying someone so much in one month to help us remove all this snow!” As always I said to them you can always visit Seattle, it has been partially sunny and in the 50’s all week.

When I spoke with my parents and in-laws (both in N.J.) they explained how bitter cold it is, but they have hoped it will warm up a bit. By warm up I know they mean anything other than the 5 degrees it was will be better. This all got me to thinking, when Brian and I were looking to relocate and start over again 5 five years ago we canvased the entire country. We played out all our options. We compared job opportunities – city life – culture – price of rent, and last but most importantly – weather! After discussing options in Chicago, Boston, New York, or Philadelphia; we both came to the assumption that we did not have any aspirations to deal with another east coast winter. That is how we got lucky.

Leeks simmering away.

Leeks simmering away.

We somehow knew that anywhere from San Francisco and north of there would be good for us. I know as crazy as it may sound, when we weighted out the sides it basically came down to either the harsh east coast winter verse the seldom chance of an earth quake. Yes, you guessed it. Slight chance of earth quake won…Did I mention that we like to live on the edge just a bit?

As I was thinking of all of our family and how chilly they might be, I made a soup that I wish I could share with all of them. It was a hearty bean, potato, and kale soup that you stir browned chorizo into when you plate it. I knew that if anything could warm any of them up this soup would be it! As we ate it we felt all warm and cozy, like we were wrapped up in a cozy knit blanket. I served it with some crusty bread and manchego cheese that paired perfectly. In my opinion this soup was so good it could make anything more tolerable, be it four foot snow drifts or single digit temperatures. This soup was so good I might just go back to the market to get more kale so I can make it again this week. To all my family and friend on the east coast: bundle up, stay warm, and eat soup.

Warm and cozy Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo.

Warm and cozy Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo.

Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo (serves 6)

**Note: Spanish Chorizo is a bit more mild in spice than that of Mexican Chorizo. If you like a bolder, more spiced flavor feel free to substitute one for the other. Or you can serve the soup with your favorite hot sauce, and you can add the amount of spice that you like.

3 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts (washed well)

3 cups diced russet potato (peeled)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cups small chopped kale, stems and ribs removed

1 can butter beans (15 oz), rinsed and drained

1/2 tsp dried thyme

4-6 links of Spanish chorizo, casing removed and chopped

6 cups chicken or veggie stock

sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, place a large pot over medium heat and warm through. Add two tbsp of olive oil to the pot and warm up. Add your leeks and let them simmer until softened, stirring them often.

Next, once your leeks are wilted add the potato and stir to mix it all together. Add the thyme and cover with the stock and bring it all to a simmer. Let it simmer until your potatoes are tender and about to fall apart when pressed against the side of the pot.

Then, add in the beans and kale to the pot and bring a simmer again. Do not let it boil and reduce it’s liquid too much, if so you can add a bit of water to the pot to keep it soupy and not too thick.

Meanwhile, place a large nonstick pan over high heat. Add your remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is heated through add your chorizo (a bit at a time) and let it sizzle and stir often. Once the chorizo is browned, remove from the pan and let drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the chorizo is cooked.

Finally, when the potatoes have broken down a bit and the kale is soft your soup is ready. Season it with sea salt and black pepper to taste and serve. Ladle the soup into your bowls and spoon in the chorizo and enjoy.

Feb 23

Moist Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

One of the huge advantages of living and working in Seattle is that you have a vast array of vendors at your fingertips over at Pike’s Place Market. I really love it and I have gotten to know several of the vendors quite well. It is not uncommon for me to get hugs from some of them, some shout out “Hello chef” as I pass by (a bit embarrassing I will admit), they will always tell you the latest and greatest of what they have that day, and often they are eager to hand you samples to taste. It is not uncommon on days that before 11 A.M. I have smelled mushrooms, sampled cheeses, tasted herbs, and have taken bites of fruit so fresh and ripe I swoon.

Some of the ripe bananas and the oranges I picked up from the market.

Some of the ripe bananas and the oranges I picked up from the market.

I often stop off at some of the vendors on my way home from work. Sometimes I  come home with different fruits and veggies for the week. There are other days I come home with anything from fresh truffles, ramps, green garlic, and just about anything that you wouldn’t find at your average corner market. We (Seattlites) are so lucky to have this all a pulse away. Most importantly, I love that I can walk up at any given time and ask any vendor “What is good this week?” and they openly tell you what you should and should not get. While I was being told at how fabulous some of the new oranges were the vendor looked at me and said, “I have bananas so ripe right now I need to get rid of them. I will give you a bunch for $1-.” You do not need to ask me twice about something like that.

The makings of really good peanut butter cream cheese icing.

The makings of really good peanut butter cream cheese icing.

So I headed home with my oranges and bananas and pondered what to make. I placed the bananas in a bowl at home and gave it a day to think about it. By the next morning I had my heart set on a cake. Why it was just a couple weeks ago I made banana muffins, so it was logical that I graduate on to CAKE! And not just a plain old banana cake, I was thinking of a chocolate chip banana cake with peanut butter cream cheese icing. I stopped in at the dairy vendor at Pike’s Place Market on my way home to get some fresh buttermilk for the cake. In my opinion, if you want a moist banana cake you need buttermilk!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake filled and topped with Peanut butter Cream Cheese Icing.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake filled and topped with Peanut butter Cream Cheese Icing.

By the time evening rolled around my apartment smelled fantastic as that banana cake baked. I let the cake cool and chill over night and the following day I prepared the icing. Slicing the cake to fill and also top it with the icing was perfection. The banana cake is really moist and a rich peanut butter cream cheese is not too sweet and compliments it perfectly. The bits of chocolate chips through out the cake offset the buttery sweetness of both the cake and icing. Brian and I each had a slice after dinner and savored every bit. I brought a big portion to work the next day to share with others in the kitchen. Brian brought a reasonably large piece with him to the office as well. My kitchen staff and Brian’s office enjoyed it so much many came back for seconds. I’m not judging…it is pleasing to see so many enjoy something you loved to make. And to think: If the vendor at the market didn’t let me know how great the bananas were this whole cake might have never happened!?!

Indulging in this delicious cake! (I think I need seconds.)

Indulging in this delicious cake! (I think I need seconds.)

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing (serves 30)

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (one 10 inch and one 6 inch cake)

3 cups AP flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cups sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

8 oz butter (room temperature)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (4 bananas)

1 cup buttermilk

1 bag of dark chocolate chips (10 oz)

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease, parchment line, and flour two pans (shape of your preference) and set aside.

Next, in a bowl mix together you flour, baking soda, and salt – place tit aside. in the bowl of a standing mixer place your butter and both your sugars and mix with a paddle attachment until it is smooth and well combined. Add the vanilla and eggs (one at a time) until well combined. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl so that it is well combined. Add in your mashed bananas and mix evenly.

Then, add a bit of your flour mixture and mix until just combined. Follow with a bit of you buttermilk and gently mix until combined. Repeat the process in two more steps until all your batter s well combined. Fold in your chocolate chips. Pour the batter evenly into your two pans and place in the center of your oven. Bake about 45 minutes rotating half way though. You are looking for the cakes to be firm and set, and have a thin knife or toothpick test the cake cleanly – with no gooey cake batter stuck to it.

Finally, let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan for about two hours. Then, place it in your refrigerator over night. The next morning, pop your cake out of the pan, remove the parchment, and slice each cake in half horizontally. Proceed with the icing recipe below.

NOTE: It is always best to pop a cake out of the pan once chilled in it overnight. You will see it almost always will pop out smoothly and in one piece. Also, it is best to slice a cake when completely chilled. It will result in your cake slicing more cleanly, neatly, and without many crumbs.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

12 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

8 oz butter (room temperature)

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups creamy peanut butter (organic)

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

First, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment place you butter and cream cheese and mix on medium until the butter and cream cheese are well combined. You want to be sure there are now lumps of either ingredient and that it is all smooth. Add in your peanut butter and mix again to combine. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all your mixture is well combined and smooth.

Next, add in your vanilla and combine well. Then slowly add your powdered sugar with the salt, a little at a time until all is mixed and well combined. You are looking for the mixture to be smooth and easily spreadable. If you feel the mixture is too stiff you can add 1 – 2 tbsp of milk at a time while mixing to thin out the icing and make it as soft and spreadable as you like.

Finally, scoop some of the icing you mixed onto one half of the cut sides of the cake. You will want to do this for both sized cakes, Spread the icing out to all the sides of your cake evenly. Top the icing you spread with the other half of the cake  for each size, Again spread the reminder of the icing over the top of each cake. If your like you can swirl the icing to make it look pretty, but smooth works just as well. You can top the smaller cake above the larger one, chill if not serving right away, but let sit out at room temperature for an hour before eating. (Cake should last for up to a week.)

NOTE: If you feel necessary you can place the smaller cake on a piece of plastic wrapped card board cut to match, but only if you are worried about the two cakes touching. one another. I let them sit directly on one another and they separated finely.

 

Feb 19

Kumquat and Rosemary Chicken (with wine braised vegetables)

When you work in a restaurant life can sometimes be difficult. Maybe I should retract that sentence? I do love what I do. I could not imagine myself in any other line of work really. There are times however that attack you in this business. Times like Valentine’s Day for example; all you end up doing is thinking about the upcoming holiday — What do I have to prep? What do I need to order? How am I going to get it all done? What if I didn’t order enough chocolate? What if the fruit is not ripe in time? All other things in life get put to the way side…sleep, relaxation. hobbies, friends, family, and just about anything personal. Then; before you know it the big day comes and goes. You survived! (On very little sleep!) You look back at it and laugh in due time making it all worth it in the end.

That is where I have been. No time for fun, just work and more work. There was an evening where it got to be too much and Brian took me out. I had a slice of pizza and a pint of hard cider.  I ate and drank and vented a lot. Came home afterward to fall fast asleep, I really needed that decompression that evening. I owed Brian big time for dealing with my stress during what most couples perceive as a great holiday.

Kumquat and Rosemary Marinade

Kumquat and Rosemary Marinade

It all got me to thinking about Brian and our relationship. I must admit that sometimes I feel a bit guilty about what I prepare for us to eat daily. You see, I made a conscious decision to become a vegetarian. I wanted and felt the change was necessary in my life. My husband was fully supportive but on the other hand did not feel the need to make the change for himself. It makes me feel bad that he primarily eats a plant based diet due to me. He insists he does not mind, and says he feels he is better for my influence. Somehow, I will always feel bad that he is eating another vegetarian meal when I cook for us.

Chicken pieces marinating and developing lots of flavor.

Chicken pieces marinating and developing lots of flavor.

I have stated on here before I do not mind cooking meat, I just make sure it is consciously done. That and the fact that I studied all types of food in culinary school, I do know what I am doing when faced with a piece of raw protein. If I do not dabble with it once in a while I worry I will lose my knack. That is why I challenged myself, that and I really felt that Brian deserved it. I wanted to make a seasonal chicken dish. I was able to pick up fresh kumquats and rosemary at the market and used them to marinate and bake the chicken. The end result was a bright and flavorful chicken that was just as juicy as it was tangy. It all baked over some wine braised veggies and served over some cracked bulger wheat. A meal worthy for all the non-meat meals he is faced with regularly. Not to mention a meal worth dealing with my agony of restaurant holiday stress. Maybe a good chicken dish can comfort any meat eater, I will stick with my veggies though.

Baked Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with the wine braised vegetables - freshly out of the oven.

Baked Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with the wine braised vegetables – freshly out of the oven.

Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with Wine Braised Veggies (feeds 4)

**If you cannot find kumquats feel free to use oranges, tangerines, or lemons. If you are not familiar with kumquats, they are really small fruits in the citrus family. All is edible on them – skin and all. The flavor is somewhat like a sweeter lemon or a tart orange.

1 1/2 cup chopped kumquats

2 tbsp rosemary sprigs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

5 – 6 chicken pieces (thighs and breasts)

1 yellow onion; trimmed, halved and cut into strips

3 carrots; peeled, trimmed, and chopped into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks of celery,trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 cup of dry white wine

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First; in a large bowl mix together your kumquats, 1/4 cup of olive oil, rosemary, 2 tbsp of sisal, and 1 tsp of black pepper. place your chicken pieces in the bowl and toss all together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 – 4 hours.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large baking dish (about 9 by 13 inch with a rim at least 2 – 3 inches tall) place your onion, carrot, and celery. Pour the wine over it all and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator. Place the chicken along with the kumquats and rosemary evenly over the veggies.

Then, place the whole dish in the oven and bake together for about an hour. You will see that the chicken will start to render into the veggies and wine. The chicken will begin to turn golden and brown evenly. (You can check the chicken for it’s “doneness” if you are concerned.)

Finally, once the chicken is browned and the veggies are tender you can remove the dish from the oven. Let it settle and rest about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm and with the veggies and the juices from the overall dish.

Feb 02

Banana Buckwheat Muffins with Pecans

Our dog Latte woke me up early last Sunday. Her ear was itchy and it needed to be cleaned. She decided to let me know by pacing, panting, continually scratch, and shake her hear right next to my pillow. So I dragged my but out of bed, cleaned her ear while still half a sleep, and instead of going back to bed I camped out on the couch with her and turned on the TV.

To my surprise a Mad Men marathon was on AMC. It no longer bothered me that I was up so early on a day off. Now I was a very happy girl; I sat in my PJ’s with Latte and indulged in one of the greatest time period television series ever. I have written on here before about my love for the show and making a “1960’s themed” dinner to celebrate the show with. Why do I love the show you might ask? There are so many reasons. It could be that it is simply beautifully written. It takes you back in time without really feeling “fictional” and it make you love such a flawed character like Don, the leading man. That is when you know there is good writing involved. I have not loved a character or writing like this since the Sopranos or Breaking Bad.

Mad Men, Muffins, and tea...a great Sunday morning.

Mad Men, Muffins, and Tea…a great Sunday morning.

While indulging myself in some Mad Men marathon time, my stomach started to growl. By now, I had walked the dogs during a commercial break and Brian was awake and zoned in on the marathon as well. I asked him what he would like to eat: waffles, pancakes, muffins? Brian’s response: Muffins!?! This was the perfect opportunity for some banana muffins made with buckwheat flour. I whipped up the muffins as fast as I could…I did not want to miss a moment of the marathon.

Muffins cooling, fresh out of the oven.

Muffins cooling, fresh out of the oven.

While the muffins were baking I heated our tea kettle, muffins and tea are perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. The apartment smelled wonderful as they baked and even more enticing as they cooled. As the series marathon was on its last episode of the morning we watched and nibbled on our warm moist muffins. We sipped our tea and basked in how good a lazy Sunday can be. Im so happy my Latte woke me up. If she didn’t I might have missed out on my Mad Men fix and not have had muffins!

Banana Buckwheat Muffin with Pecans - ready to be devoured.

Banana Buckwheat Muffin with Pecans – ready to be devoured.

Banana Buckwheat Muffins with Pecans (makes 16 muffins)

1 cup Buckwheat flour

1 cup AP flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

4 oz butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup of milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large bananas, very ripe & mashed

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

cupcake wrappers

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line your cupcake pan with your cupcake wrappers. In a bowl whisk together both your sugars, melted butter, egg, and vanilla until smooth.

Next, in a separate bowl add your flours, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir it all together. Gently mix the four into your sugar mixture. mix it all until well combined.

Then, fold in your banana and pecans. Once it is all well combined you can fill your cupcake wrappers up to 3/4 full. If you like you can sprinkle the top the the muffins with the reserved tablespoon of sugar.

Finally, place the muffins in the oven and bake about 18 – 25 minutes. You are looking for the muffin tops to be firm yet springy when tapped. Let them cool about 10 minuted before serving and enjoying. Will keep for up to four days at room temperature wrapped in plastic.

Jan 29

Super Bowl food for the non sports fan!

If you know anything about me, I am not a sports fan / follower. Yes, come the Olympics we try to stay up on events. When the World Cup comes around I love to hear the stats and facts of teams across the world. The World Series, anything basket ball related, and Super Bowl – we are lucky if we know when and what is going on about it. In many ways we are the outcasts to our family over all of this.

Ingredients all lined up and ready.

Ingredients all lined up and ready.

Growing up, my family did lots of stuff around sports. During football season it was not uncommon to find my father in his recliner with my sister in a chair next to him watching the Giants. If you were to go to my Uncle Frank and Aunt Fran’s home my uncle always had baseball or basketball on the TV. And as far as my Uncle Bill was concerned – he was always watching, playing, coaching, or refereeing whatever was in season. I, however, never shared these passions. When I first started dating my husband it was a breath of fresh air that he did not have any fascinations with sports, and yet his family did. His Auntie Orch and Uncle Dave were die hard Yankee and baseball fans. His father and brother are avid Giant fans. Upon first moving to Phoenix we were back in New Jersey for a family wedding the following September. When we came down for breakfast in the morning my father-in-law asked, “The Cardinals are playing the Giants! Who are you rooting for?” We both responded the same way, “Are you talking about baseball or football?” My father-in-law had a disgusted look on his face and replied with: “I have no hope with either of you!”

Layer Dip in a glass plate looks great because you can see all the layers.

Layer Dip in a glass plate looks great because you can see all the layers.

Needless to say; whether we are in New Jersey, Phoenix, and now Seattle – it really does not matter what sport is playing. We just don’t follow it. But in the last two years it has been strange. We have a winning football team (the Seahawks) an neither of us have any clue about it. Last week as we are watching 80’s cult film classics we can hear roars of cheering outside – that is our indication that the Seahawks just had a good play. Some might find it odd. I mean the entire city is into it. Despite all the sports fanatics that my husband and I grew up with nothing compares to the amount of Seahawks propaganda that is everywhere you turn. Not to mention, the city kind of shuts down when a game is being played; by this I mean I could take Martini and Latte for a walk down the middle of 1st street and there wouldn’t be a car or person in sight! I find it a bit eerie to tell you the truth. I never saw or experienced anything like this while living in New Jersey or Phoenix.

Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips

Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips

So, I must admit that I find it strangely odd that last year the Seahawks go to the Super Bowl in – New Jersey. This year, the Seahawks will be playing the Super Bowl in – Phoenix. It is like there is a conspiracy in some way to get us involved in a sport we could care less about. So while I came to this realization I made a meal the other night fit for a Super Bowl party. This is something I would have made while I lived in New Jersey – thinking it was “Mexican food”, only to realize after living in Phoenix for ten years that it is nothing close to what Mexican food really is. I have lived and learned (about food) but as far as sports are concerned I still know very little. But Brian and I are happy that way! As for our Super Bowl type food – it was good and tasty; but you will still not see us eating it while watching the game! That is just unheard of.

Layer Dip scooped and ready to dive in.

Layer Dip scooped and ready to dive in.

Super Bowl Layer Dip (serves 6-8)

1 can of refried beans

1 small container of sour cream

1 container of your favorite salsa

1-2 large avocado (diced or mashed)

1 serrano or jalapeno chili, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp of minced onion

sea salt to taste

1 lime, juiced

1 – 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (I personally like a smoked one)

1 small can of black olives, sliced

3 – 4 radishes, chopped small

2 – 3 cups of shredded romaine lettuce

Tortilla chips for scooping.

First, in a glass pie plate spread the refried beans down evenly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix the avocado, garlic, onion, chili, lime juice, and sea salt. Combine until well blended and set aside.

Next, layer the remainder of your ingredients evenly and carefully on top of the beans. I personally like to add the sour cream above the beans, followed by the avocado mix. Be sure to be gentle while spreading and layering. If you press down on amy of it too hard you will mix up your layers. Pour your salsa over it all in as even as a coating as possible.

Then, top all of it with an even layer of your cheese. Above the cheese, sprinkle your lettuce evenly. Tope it all with the olives and radishes. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat, at lest a hour before eating or up to a day ahead.

Finally, remove from the refrigerator and serve chilled. Have your Tortilla chips on the side and enjoy.

Jan 25

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta

We came home from our vacation to find our refrigerator quite bare. That is natural given the circumstances, I mean who would want to go away and leave perishable food in their refrigerator? Who knows what you would come home to!?! So we came home to nothing “fresh” to cook and only pantry staples. So, I headed over to the market; something fresh, bright in flavor, and comforting to eat was in order.

Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

As I walked through the market I spotted it – Braccoli Rabe (or Rappi if you want to call it that). I know that I wrote on here before about my affection for this vegetable and how I grew up eating it. But lately I have been making it with a new twist. I was reading a while back about how lemon is a perfect parring with greens, bitter greens especially. I wanted to give it a try with my favorite greens. I have been cooking them like this for a year now and it is fabulous.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

 

I simply just slowly simmer the broccoli rabe until tender, then you add in garlic, chili flakes, and olive oil. Once the garlic is tender you add in lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. Toss it all with pasta and serve it with lots of freshly grated parmesan. It is a warm and slightly spicy dish with a nice bright finish from the lemons. There is only one thing that makes this whole dish better – Meyer Lemons. (They are not as harsh and a bit softer in its taste, but it is just as bright in flavor.)

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

So of course when I saw the broccoli rabe I knew I needed to make this meal. Who wouldn’t want a meal like this after a week away? it is one of those meals that makes you feel as good inside as it is tasty. To me, a meal worth coming home to and getting your everyday life back in order. Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta is that good.

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta - I'm digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta – I’m digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta (serves 4)

*Note: You can easily substitute lemon if meyer lemon cannot be found.

1 bunch of broccoli rabe

3 meyer lemons, zested and juiced

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt

3/4 – 1 pound of pasta of choice

parmesan cheese for grating

First, trim the bottom end (at least a 1/2 inch) of your broccoli rabe. Wash it several times to be sure it is clean. Chop the remainder into 1 inch pieces. Place them in a large saute pan (it may be heaping, and that is okay) with about 1 1/2 cups of water. Place the pan over medium heat and heat until water begins to simmer and the broccoli rabe starts to wilt.

Next, place a large pot (6 – 8 quarts) of salted water over high heat and wait for it to boil.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on your broccoli rabe. You are looking for the majority of the water to simmer away while you keep stirring it. When there is only a trace of water left; add in your olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Place a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes and then remove, your garlic should start to become fragrant and tender. Season it with some sea salt to taste.

Finally, your large pot of water should be boiling. Cook your pasta according to the directions on its packaging.  Once the pasta is cooking add the meyer lemon juice and zest to the broccoli rabe and stir is all together while gently simmering. When pasta is cooked drain it well and toss it together with the broccoli rabe serve with lots of parmesan cheese to grate fresh.

Jan 22

New Orleans Trip leads to Vegan Red Beans and Rice

On January 1st Brian and I packed our bags and headed to New Orleans for a much anticipated vacation. We had never been and yearning to go for quite some time. Just like life is, things kept popping up and the trip kept getting pushed back. When we realized that we both had some time to finally get away come January we jumped at the chance. I searched for a deal online, booked the trip, and waited on pins and needles for us to get there.

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Beignets – just some of the few I indulged in.

I couldn’t wait to walk around a city I have never been before. (One of my favorite parts of enjoying a new place.) Jazz music and beignets were to be indulged in, along with some great creole food. Believe me, New Orleans did not disappoint. The jazz music we stumbled upon both out on the streets and in clubs was so enjoyable. I tried beignets at three different places; and might I add that the ones at Morning Call were the best. Brian indulged in a New Orleans treat called “Crawfish Bread”…yes, he loved every nibble of it! We toured through the Treme, the Bywater, and Frenchman Street. We road the streetcars, strolled through City Park, indulged in a very nice meal at Bayona, and we even got to eat at the famous Dooky Chase (it was an honor to be there, but that is another blog post entirely).

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City Park, NOLA

I know many probably go to New Orleans to party, drink, and live it up till all hours of the night. But I am not everybody and I felt somewhat guilty about telling Brian that I wanted to go to bed by the time 10 o’clock rolled around. I rationalized it with it was my vacation and we did do a lot everyday we were there. We were up and at early each day, most likely while most were still fast asleep. I love being out and about in a new place just as the sun hits the sidewalks and you see the comings, and goings of everyday life there. By the time evenings roll around I am  just as happy relaxing in my PJ’s and watching reruns of Criminal Intent.

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I will admit that I loved just about everything in that city, and I am personally looking forward to going back and exploring new parts of it. There was one disappointment though. Being a vegetarian, there was a lack to good old creole or soul food I could indulge in. Lots of the dishes have ham, pork, or crawfish in them. At each place we passed by I would look over the menu, and see my option was a salad. I am not complaining mind you. I was prepared for this, and every salad I ate was really tasty. But I really wanted a dish of red beans and rice! They looked so good, and there were a couple of dishes of them I spotted that made my mouth water. What could I do about it? I did the only thing I knew I could. I purchased a bag of New Orleans Red Beans to bring home and once we were settled – Vegan Creole Red Beans and Rice was for dinner. The result: super tasty, savory, and oh so yummy! It may not be a traditional way of cooing them, but it was damn good! Maybe on my next visit there will be more food options for the vegetarian, in the mean time I will keep indulging in my vegan version.

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Creole Red Beans  (Serves 4)

1 cup dried red beans

1 green bell pepper, cored and diced

1 yellow onion, chopped small

3 cloves of garlic, chopped small

2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 quart veggie stock

sea salt to taste

cooked white or brown rice (variety of preference)

First, the night before you would like to make this dish place your beans in a large bowl and cover with about 5 cups  of water. Cover and set aside in a cool dark place overnight. (I personally just keep it on my counter out of direct sunlight.)

Next, drain the beans and place in a 4 – 6 quart pot with a a quart of water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

Then, add your green bell pepper and onion. Along with this add your herbs, black pepper, and nutritional yeast. Stir it well and add your veggie stock. Let it all simmer together until your beans are tender and your liquid is reduced by half.

Finally, remove a few ladles of your mixture and puree. Add this mixture back to the pot and stir together seasoning it with your sea salt to taste. Ladle you mixture over rice and serve.

 

Jan 16

Memorable Warm Cabbage Salad

There is a restaurant in Sedona, Az. called The Heartline Cafe that Brian and I really enjoyed over the years. While living in the dessert we would annually make a trip up to Sedona during the holiday season. We would enjoy a touch of the cooler temperature, take in christmas light displays, treat ourselves to a great meal, and head back home. Sedona was a bit of a drive from where we lived (at least an hour and a half); but it was always well worth it.

While eating our dinner this past Christmas Eve I kept thinking about the last time we were there. It was five years prior and I almost didn’t go. You see right after Thanksgiving that year my father ended up in the hospital. By the time Christmas rolled around he was still there. His health was touch and go for a while, we were all scared, and could not get into the holiday spirit in the least. I can remember looking at Brian and telling him we should cancel our plans and stay home, I was not in the mood for anything holiday related. But he insisted we make the trip. I can remember him expressing to me that I needed to do something other than worry about my family.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

To be honest, I really don’t even remember the drive. I slept most of the way there and it felt good. I had not had a full nights sleep since before this whole ordeal with my father started. Once we were in Sedona we walked through a Christmas light display and being out in the cool air felt so good. We then headed over to the restaurant and had a wonderful meal. I can remember I had a deliciously warm and comforting red cabbage salad. It was out of the ordinary from what I normally would eat, and that is quite possibly why I remember it so well. It had crunch, nuts, and some delicious creamy goat cheese, it was a very well rounded salad if you ask me.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Fast forward to present day. My father is much better now thank you. As last Christmas passed, New Year’s went by, and I still had that warm cabbage salad on my mind – yes, five years later. Once Brian and I were back into our grove of normalcy last week, I stopped by the market to pick up a head of purple cabbage so I could recreate the salad in my memory. The result was just as good as I remembered. And might I add…What better on these winter evenings than a warm salad that still has crunch? Plus, it is so pretty on the plate with it’s deep hue that it will impress others you serve it to. Trust me, this salad is a memorable one.

Warm Cabbage Salad

Warm Cabbage Salad, plated and ready to eat.

Warm Cabbage Salad, with Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese, and Pears (serves 4 – 6)

***Note: when choosing a cabbage, be sure to pick one that is dense, crisp, and deep in huge. This salad will work fine with a green or red cabbage but I personally like the hue the purple cabbage lends to the dish.

1 medium head of purple cabbage; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp honey

sea salt to taste

fresh black pepper to taste

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off

2 oz fresh goat cheese

1 – 2 pears firm and crisp

First, place a large sauce pan over medium heat and warm through. Poor the vegetable oil in the pan and warm through. Add the cabbage to the pan and keep stirring and tossing until cabbage is slightly wilted but remains its crunchy texture.

Next, once cabbage is wilted slightly add the vinegar and honey and keep stirring and tossing until well coated. Season the cabbage with sea salt and black pepper to taste along with 1 tbsp of the thyme over it all. Stir it well.

Then, roughly chop the hazelnuts. add them to the cabbage mixture and toss it well. Slice your pears in half, removing the core, and slice them evenly. Break up or slice your goat cheese evenly, and set aside.

Finally, with cabbage still warm divid it among your plates. Arrange the pear slices along the side of the salads, place your goat cheese on top of your cabbage, and sprinkle each plate with the remainder of the thyme leaves. Serve while still warm.

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